Thirsty Thursday: Loot of Fruit

Greetings from Disney! As you read this, I am currently in the Happiest Place on Earth. I’m probably rocking some obnoxious ears, a pair of sunglasses just as obnoxious, and some sort of clothing to indicate that I am a Mouseketeer at heart. Before I left, I passed the time I should have been packing by playing around with alcohol. I’ve also been on a mini health kick, and decided to blend the two as much as possible. So in addition to fun spirits, I pulled out my Beauty Chef antioxidant booster to make something that tasted good while also making me feel (slightly) better about my afternoon concoction. This isn’t a particularly sweet cocktail despite the fruit components, but if you want something a little more decadent, add a half shot of your favorite juice or flavored simple syrup- that should perk it up just enough for you!

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Loot of Fruit

Yield: 1 cocktail

2 oz. American Fruits Bartlett Pear Liqueur

1 oz. Belvedere Citrus

1 oz. Beauty Chef Antioxidant Inner Beauty Boost

half a lime, cut in half

 

1. Fill your favorite cocktail glass (one that’s tumbler sized) and fill it with ice.

3. Measure out and pour liqueur, Belvedere, and antioxidant boost directly into cocktail glass. Stir well for five to ten seconds.

4. Top off with freshly squeezed lime juice. Stir again. Use the other quarter of the lime as garnish. Enjoy.

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Food with Padma Lakshmi

In an effort to watch less TV and feel marginally more intellectual, a few of my friends and I started a book club. Once every month or so we get together after work, order some drinks, and talk about a book. We’ve done everything from the more highbrow All the Light We Cannot See to a one called Retail Hell. I can relate to the latter more than I would care to admit. Falling somewhere in the middle is Padma Lakshmi’s relatively new book Love, Loss, and What We Ate. As a Top Chef fan, self-labeled foodie, and a person who occasionally craves a quick read, I was a fan of this choice even though it wasn’t mine. I devoured it in two days and have left my favorite quotes below for you all to enjoy as well.

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“I have always associated cooking with womanhood. At that moment, in August 2007, when I did not feel so womanly, with my insides carved out and my marriage a failure, the only thing I could take pleasure in was that golden sauce.”

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“The decision to consume my placenta was not an easy one.”

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“Just a hunk of cheese with good bread and olives were all I needed. Cheese and olives smashed between flanks of crisp baguette was the perfect combination of umami and chaatpati in one starchy, crumbly bite.”

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In regards to the concept behind Top Chef: “She loved Julia Child but had no interest in adding to the pile of imitators already on TV.”

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“Indeed, food and femininity were intertwined for me from very early on. Cooking was the domain not of girls, but of women.”

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Padma Lakshmi is not the kind of writer that makes you think “Pulitzer Prize!,” but this was an engaging glimpse into her life. Salman Rushdie, modeling around Europe, and a very public baby daddy drama make this a page turner, while her descriptions of growing up between two cultures is what make it real. Pick it up if any of that piques your interest; you won’t regret it.

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WineStudio: Chilling with Some Riesling

My family is one of those that likes sweet wine. Moscato, bubbles that give you cavities, and any other white wine that has more sweetness in it than a cheesecake is one that my grandmother is guaranteed to enjoy. At work, I’m also frequently asked what my favorite sweet red wine is. Therefore, I rarely buy them. Any responses I give to wine queries generally result in blank stares or a shake of the head. My friends don’t care about the work or the vineyard or the bottling date. They just want something that they like. Period.

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That being said, despite my general desire to turn up my nose at anything too popular, I have a soft spot for Riesling. I’m a bit of an acid junkie (in wine, not in drugs), and I can find that in my favorite German grape. So a few months ago when #WineStudio’s focus was all on Karthäuserhof and Richter, two producers that Massanois Imports brings in for us Americans, I was into it.

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#WineStudio, which I’m sure most of you have heard of many times through my blog, is still around and kicking. If there is one thing all wine enthusiasts can agree on, it’s that you can never know everything about wine. However, #WineStudio is here to help with that. Bringing together wine makers, importers, and drinkers, this twitter session occurs weekly, delving deep into the world of wine knowledge and tasting, and you never have to leave your couch to participate. Isn’t that the millennial dream?

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Kicking off January the right way, the first bottle I opened was a refined wine that still hit my sweet tooth. This 2015 Karthäuserhof Riesling Ruwer lead with sweetness, yet still contained a freshness that kept the bottle from being cloying. Against the simple labeling, there was complexity within the bottle. The crisp green apple flavors and the touch of acid added more dimension to this option, and it’s one I would buy again. In an effort to really experiment with this grape, I played with my pairings this month. With this bottle, I went more traditional and ordered up some Chinese food. Playing against the fattiness of egg rolls, I was digging this, but it admittedly held up less well alongside the meatier pork dumplings. So, maybe save this one for the fried veggie options over others.

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The second bottle I opened was the special one. The 2015 Brauneberger Juffer Riesling Kabinett from Richter was my jam. The persistent sweetness was balanced well by the forceful acid, and it all came together to sing beautifully with the salty Polish sausage I made for dinner that evening. Everything from the crisp pale gold color to the bold zingy flavors to the fresh lemon zest aromas reminded me of an episode of the defunct series Magic City. It wasn’t a balmy January day in Baltimore. I was in Miami in the late fifties by a pool. I count that bottle as a win. You could age this one until 2030, but you could also be like me and go after the pleasure now.

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Stepping away from the sweeter first wines, with an bottle from Karthäuserhof I dove into more tropical territory. The 2011 Riesling Grosses Gewächs featured intense tropics including pineapple, with the acid factor coming up toward the end. There was nuance to it with just a hint of sweetness, although this wasn’t the bottle for me. While I can appreciate a nice vacation on the beach, tropical flavors are about as exciting to me as the idea of more Fast and the Furious films. Much like caramel, Snapchatting, and high heels, some people get the appeal, but I am not one of them. However, if that description makes your mouth water, ignore everything I’ve just said and go out and buy a bottle. Don’t listen to me. I’m just here to satisfy my own ego.

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Demonstrating that not all Mosel wines are the same and that things like terroir, barrels, and the winery itself actually matter, we ended our session with the 2015 Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Kabinett. Lemon rind, lime, and wet stone was found inside rustic looking bottle. This offered up a lot initially, neither being too coy nor too simple, and still lingered long enough. This didn’t burst with acid like I usually prefer, but the acid to be found balanced out the sweetness well. Light enough for a picnic or to pull out early on in a dinner party, this isn’t a bad one to consistently have on hand. There’s nothing wrong with a decent crowd pleaser.

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As the weather gets warmer, or you’re craving something sweet, or you just want to enjoy a tasty wine, these Mosel wines are the ones to hunt down. They each have something a little different to offer, but they also offer up a universality that ensures everyone can find something to love inside each bottle. They’re ones that I would share with my friends who don’t “get” wine, but also ones I could confidently open up for my fellow winos. Heck, I may have just talked myself into opening up another bottle right now. Cin cin.

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Taking Some Sips Alongside Politics

When I was in high school, I was in a program focused on law and public policy. At the ripe age of 14, my life was filled with political debates, mock congress, and interning at a local courthouse. By college, I was a little burned out. I was sick of talking about amendments and lobbyists. I craved a simpler time where diving into the legal side of my country meant singing along to “I’m Just a Bill.”

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Around election time, I was offered the opportunity to try the 2014 The Federalist Dueling Pistols. Now several years away from high school, my interest in politics has been revived, and I jumped at the opportunity to try this one. Inspired by Alexander Hamilton and his duel with Aaron Burr, this wine features “dual” grapes from the Sonoma/Dry Creek Valley and cheekily suggests opening up a bottle to resolve problems instead of readying muskets.

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Made up of 50% Syrah and 50% Zinfandel, this plum colored wine started off dark and fruity, but immediately sparked to life with tons of dry peppery flavors. I got cherry, blackberry, plum, and tons of spice both in aroma and on the palate. This was the Law and Order: SVU of wine, big, bold, and a little surprising. With a SRP of $29.00, it’s one to buy a few of and bring out for friends who want something more intense than Pinot Noir. If you’ve checked this one out, let me know if you agree!

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In honor of seeing Hamilton in 2018, I’ll be buying another one of these babies to open up that evening…though I may not finish the whole bottle. After all the waiting to see one of the most buzzed about shows, it’s not one I want to sleep through.

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Food with the Hemingways

When this posts, I’ll be on my way to Dulles (aka the Hell of airports) to board a twelve hour flight to Dubai. As I’ve gotten father away from my college years and my time studying abroad, I crave almost anything related to travel. That includes reading. Books about wine take me to vineyards, my Afar magazines give me glimpses into different countries with every issue, and for this blog post, The Paris Wife brought me into the lost generation of the 20s. So, I’m going to try and capture some of the Hemingway spirit Paula McLain creates in The Paris Wife and share with you some of the words that bring together food and travel. In the interest of the truth, this isn’t some highbrow book that relays every truth about Paris in the 20s, but it is a fun read to pass the time at an airport or two.

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“But now that it was high summer, I didn’t want to be in the kitchen at all and was happy to eat fruit or nothing until Ernest was finished with his work. Then we’d go to a cafe for an aperitif when it was dark and much cooler and felt right again to eat and be hungry.”

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“Duff Twysden was one of the wilder girls of the cafe scene. She drank like a man and told a good, filthy joke and could talk to absolutely anyone.”

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“We drank several bottles of chilled wine and then three-star Hennessy, and everything was beautiful- the valleys and bridges, the charming house and its flowering trees.”

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“One afternoon I was lying back on the grass watching Ernest and Chink fish. Ernest reached into the duffel bag on the bank next to him and pulled out a bottle of cold white wine that he uncorked with his teeth.”

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“Absinthe was illegal in France and had been for years. So was opium, but you could find both everywhere in Paris if you knew where to look. I loved the delicate licorace taste and the way the ritual of the cube and specially perforated spoon made raindrops, sugar drops.”

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“There were camellias floating in glass bowls and mounds of oysters and fresh corn dotted with sprigs of basil. It seemed possible that the Murphys had specially ordered the deep purple Meditteranean sky…”

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Now, I’m off to read some words written by Hemingway while imagining I’m in Paris in the 20’s. While this book and Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris have established that it wasn’t the necessarily the fairy tale I may have imagined, it’s still kind of nice to pretend sometimes.

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Thirsty Thursday: Electric Tea

While I usually associate February with snow, an overrated holiday I will not name, and the desire for big broody red wine, it is currently sixty degrees in Baltimore. So, not knowing what to do with myself, I made a cocktail. I wanted something with citrus, though still bold enough to remind me that this is actually winter not July 4th. After throwing a few things together, too lazy to even take out my shaker, I created what I’ve dubbed an Electric Tea. There’s a kick of lime, some fruity flavors, and the power of gin to balance it out. This isn’t a sugar bomb, but if you’re craving something sweet, opt out the lime juice and use homemade sweet and sour instead. If you’re craving something sweet with depth, replace the gin with Black Strap Cruzan rum for a molasses kick. Either way, this is the kind of cocktail to throw together in a minute or two before sitting back and wasting away your day. Don’t take it to seriously and it will treat you well…just don’t try operating any heavy machinery immediately after partaking in one of these. Personally, I had to put down my Hemingway and  could only manage a nap.

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Electric Tea

Yield: 1 cocktail

2 oz. Greenall’s London Dry Gin

1 1/2 oz. Chambord

1 1/2 oz. Owls Brew Pink and Black

juice of half a lime

4-5 dashes Scrappy’s Bitters Lavender

2 Luxardo cherries (optional)

1. Fill a tall cocktail glass with ice.

3. Measure out and pour gin, Chambord, and Owls Brew directly into cocktail glass. Stir well for five to ten seconds.

4. Top off with freshly squeezed lime juice and a few dashes of lavender bitters. Throw two Luxardo cherries in. Stir again. Enjoy.

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Feeling the Greatest in Las Vegas

Just about everything in Vegas is fake. The Beatles that rock out during LOVE every night at the Mirage; the statues of Caesar around his “Palace”; the waterfalls that surround the pools; even a few of the top floors of the Venetian are just tarp painted to make the building look taller than it really is. The more I think about it, the more I wonder how the city first came up as the destination for our Persian family reunion.

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One thing (possibly the only thing) about Vegas that isn’t fake is the food. Most of it is over the top and it’s all certainly pricey, but it’s also good. With a slew of celebrity chef restaurants that probably haven’t seen their namesakes in months and the knowledge that most of the discerning palates are a bit drunk, I didn’t know what my snobby self was getting into. Luckily, as usual, I was wrong.

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The first bite I took that highlighted how well Vegas does food was my first afternoon there. I stepped into Pantry famished and stepped out ready to gain twenty pounds. What better way to celebrate the end of a morning body wrap? Not too concerned about the fact that I’d be in a bathing suit in a couple of hours, I finished off the tender Corned Beef Hash in under twenty minutes. That might not seem like much of a feat, but served in a skillet the size of my head and underneath two poached eggs, it was more than my fair share of breakfast food. It was my first taste of Vegas excess.

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Though breakfast seems ideal for those nursing hangovers, dinner was where this city really won my heart. Bouchon did everything well, from the over-the-top cheese boards to my Moules au Safran with a broth so nuanced I had to stop myself from tilting my head back and finishing the goodness in a few gulps. It was one of those places where you have to take multiple “one last bite’s,” even when you’ve gorged yourself and cannot fathom something else passing through your lips. To balance out the decadence of the French options, hotels like the Cosmopolitan have restaurants like Jaleo. As a tapas restaurant, getting two or three plates at a time and ordering until you’ve tried a lot and are satisfied is the way to go. With classic Vegas showiness, some dishes like the Presa ibérica crudo ahumado come out under a vase filled with fragrant smoke while the Croquetas de pollo are served in a worn-down sneaker. Still, I was confident enough in the quality behind this show to eat raw smoked pork. By the time I finished with the perfectly charred veggies decorated with a fiery-acidic sauce, I was planning a trip to Jaleo in D.C. Vegas had won me over.

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Of course, you can’t leave Vegas without experiencing the booze. While I happily slurped down mojitos poolside, there were dozens of other options, including the classic Manhattan. Honestly, I loathe Manhattans. I truly don’t understand what most people see in whisky and bourbon; they overpower everything in a cocktail and make me gag when sipped on ice. Give me gin any day. However, I would drink the Manhattan served at Heritage Steak any time of day. I don’t know if the quality of alcohol was better or the bartender just knew what he was doing, but I do know what clinched it for me was the smoked maraschino syrup. It added a depth to the alcohol of which I didn’t know dark liquor was capable. As the final drink of my trip, it felt like a prize for spending the whole say site seeing in the hot desert. Who knew the best Manhattan could be found closer to the West Coast? Now that I think about it, maybe all that heat went to my head and this drink was actually a mirage?

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I would go back to Vegas for a lot of reasons. It’s cheesy and everybody drinks much more than they should and there are way too many college kids, but it’s kind of great for a vacation where you want to be wowed and not think too much. Don’t go looking to be enlightened or to experience Europe in America. Go to hang by the pool, visit the desert, and then blow all your money after an amazing meal.

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